Special support for the Speech Contest of the Schools for the Blind

“The 1st-prize winner”
Naoki Mitsui, Osaka City School for the Blind, 35 years old, (Representative of Kinki)
The title: “The Working Pleasure Bears Fruit”

This spring, I first heard a song. The song is the school song for the Osaka City School for the Blind. It was the fifth school song I have heard since I was a student at elementary school and it was the first time I had heard another school song due to my age, 34 years old.

I started to work as a businessman in April and I was 23 years old when after just six months after entering the company, I almost got in a car accident when I driving during my normal work duties. I almost crashed into the sidewall of a tunnel because my eyes didn’t adjust to the darkness immediately. The next day, I went to the hospital and was told I had pigment degeneration of the retina.

However I didn’t realize the impact of this until I heard what the doctor said next…,

“Don’t drive anymore”

“What? I can’t drive? What about my job?”

I began to panic.

“I might not be able to do my job anymore, a job which I loved very much”

I was honest and told the company where I work immediately about the disease. Then the company considered my situation and made an allocation for me to the secretary from the sales department. I felt relieved that I could keep working and stay even though my role at work had changed.

“Well, I will work hard at this position until retirement for this company who had considered my situation and shown me a lot of kindness”. I promised myself this and worked hard everyday.

However the disease had spread faster than I thought. It became difficult to see documents and the computer screen and not being able to go forward with my work, which had been easy to do until now, while my co- workers and junior partners were getting more responsibilities in their the jobs.

“Is this disease even taking my job away from me?”

From then on, I began facing the disease more seriously and even joined a meeting for people with vision impairment to find new careers. I learned about massage, acupressure and acupuncture and it grew on me.

“Well, my eyes are bad more or less but I have my arms, hands and fingers and they are good. Yes, I will go to a school for the blind and push myself forward and pursue a career in massage, acupressure and acupuncture!”

“Is this disease even taking my job away from me?”

This March, I left the company who I had worked for and loved for a total of 11 years. I couldn’t help my tears from falling fast because I have never stopped missing people from that company and I was affected a lot by not being able to repay the company and most of all, the pain of being away from “working”. However, I wasn’t stuck there forever by being sentimental and kept those feeling to myself, regained a new hope and then, this spring I went through the gate of the Osaka City School for the Blind.

It was that day in April, entering the school, after the announcement requesting the singing of the “School song” that it began.

I was wondering what this song was, “What the melody or lyrics of the school song for the Osaka City School for the Blind will sound like?”

I listened to the song carefully and when the song reached the 3rd chorus, a phrase hit my heart. The phrase that said, “The working pleasure bears fruit”.

“I will surely work again after 3 years diligently learning about massage, acupressure and acupuncture at the school for blind!”

I remembered unexpectedly what I said and promised to my boss, co-worker and junior partner when I left the company.

It was there in the song which spoke to my happiness which was always “working” and “being able to work”.

Shining history of the Osaka City School for the Blind.

High ideals, the days of our lives.

The working pleasure bears fruit.

Fly to the sky bravely.

Open tomorrow with freedom and peace.

I get a lot of courage and hope for flying into the future each time when I sing or listen to the song.

There will be a lot of difficult times with not having my own sight or way and sometimes a wall in the way of possibilities. I’m not sure yet if the cause of obstacles will be from my disease or something else but when things are difficult, I will then sing this song in my heart and sometimes raise my voice for encouragement and to stimulate myself and I want to sing and keep singing…until the day when I start working again a masseuse, accupressurist and acupuncturist.

“The 2nd-prize winner”
Saori Kasama, Hokkaido School for the Blind, 18 years old, (Representative of Hokkaido)
The title: “The Delicious Story”

My hometown, Kushiro City is a thriving fishery and there are a lot of fish processing factories, fish markets and even people sell fish with carts on the street so we can always eat fresh and delicious fish. Also there is a fish shop close to my house and the guy from the shop teaches me how to cook fish, with advice like “You better to make a crab for your miso soup for this season” and every time he tells me how the market was in the morning. Kushiro is such a town.

However I have something that I worry about lately. It seems like it has been growing, the number of fish from other countries in big super markets and so on. Why there are so much fish which are imported to Kushiro such as Salmon and Mackerel from Norway, Cod from Canada and crab from Russia? I was wondering why this way and walking around looking in shops, surprised by realizing that there is more food from other countries than before. Also when I carefully looked at them, there was food which is processed in Japan but the material is from other countries and it was much more than I thought. Now it seems a little late but it made me consider the news which has been the talk of many people recently, the rate of food self-sufficiency being so low in Japan.

Then I thought to myself, “What is the cause for there to be so many imported foods from other countries in our shops?”

The first reason is that the price of foreign food is lower than domestic food. For the consumer side, it is natural idea that one wants to buy things cheaper. For me, I also try to spend less when I shop if it is possible. If the consumer requests a cheaper thing, the seller would depend on the imported food which is cheaper and this is natural as well. I think the imported food supports our life and even became part of our life.

Another reason of what I think is that we, buyers have become a little bit selfish. We may have forgotten there is a season for each food. Now we don’t see any sense of the season at the super market because we see pumpkins in spring and asparagus and broccoli in midwinter on sale. Most of the food which is sold during the off-season is imported from other countries. In my opinion, if we can wait a little longer and buy food when in-season, it is more delicious and we wouldn’t need to depend on import food this much.

With this, I had feelings of both agreement and disagreement in my thoughts. However, I changed my mind when I heard the phrase “Food mileage”. This “Food mileage” is an idea advocated for making a smaller distance that food travels from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer and can help with global warming prevention. What the concept is that the amount of energy for the transportation that these imported food from other countries reach to our table are replaced as a numerical figure. As a concrete example, if we replace bread which is made of wheat from America to bread made in Hokkaido, then the amount of energy such as the oil for transportation would thereby decrease the Greenhouse Gases expelled and it would lead to assisting in global warming prevention. After knowing this idea, I have been considering the source of the food as much as possible when I shop.

It is not so easy to cover everything from a local manufacturer, so I need to practice and remember this idea of “Food mileage” since I have learned it. This is because my home town, Kushiro may be also affected by global warming. For these couple of years, there have been unusual happenings to the fishery in the Doto district. For example, the size of Mackerel Pike is smaller than before, the numbers of Salmon we usually catch have decreased and the season for catching Salmon has changed among other various unusual things happening in the fishery. For these instances, there are diverse ideas from people now and there are some theories such as the change of ecosystem, change of currents and over fishing and there is the big phrase, “Global Warming”.

Now, since the fishery which we, our home town is so proud of is experiencing these unusual happenings, I was thinking if there is something I can do and so I got the idea that “We could protect the culture of food in our home town if we eat only from there”. We have an old saying “On every side, four villages, there is no sickness”. It means that if we eat only what we can get around our house, we are fine and won’t get any sickness. The saying has been here for a long time and shares the idea that the less distance food travels from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer is better and since people are in good health, the environment also can be healthy.

I like fall very much. Starting in the fall, my mom gets mackerel pikes for the season and makes sweet-boiled fish for us. The dinner is always my greatest and happiest moment for me when we eat it with my whole family while repeatedly saying “delicious!” This idea is a small idea but eating food from our town in season with our family together; we can raise the rate of self-sufficiency in Japan and prevent Global warming. Most of all, we can communicate with our own family more often and it increases naturally. Practicing the idea of making the distance food travels shorter, from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer, a lot of good things may be coming. There is no story that is this delicious.

Let us think and consider “our food” and the “Food of our home town” even if it is a little.

“The 3 rd-prize winner”
Kazuhito Yoshimura, Okayama School for the Blind, 17 years old, (Representative of Tyugoku, Shikoku)
The title: “What I got from the ball and what I put into the hit”

“I will lose if I give up now! Do I want to finish even if I haven’t been able to show what I have done until now? No, I can’t give up I am already here!”

It was that moment when I swung my racket desperately at the 3rd place decision match of table tennis for Nationwide Disability Sport Event last October. Sometimes a meeting with something changes how we had lived or thought previously until then. I realized an important thing only through this sport.

At that time, when I was introduced to table tennis, I had concerns about something in my mind.

I had an operation on my head when I was little, and since then I had always had to wear a hat for protecting my head at school and at least one teacher always had to attend even break times for me in preparation for an emergency accident. Sometimes I was impatient with it and I asked why only I had to have a different life from others and had to have people who surrounded me do this much for me because I didn’t have any pain myself. Not only that, I was told by the doctor not to do hard exercise. Because of that, I couldn’t exercise like other children at that time. When my health improved finally, I entered junior high school and began to play other sports but soon realized I couldn’t play any sport I chose as much as I wanted. This was because there was as absolute difference of basic physical strength between the ordinary person of my age and myself. I felt so ashamed about this but couldn’t help it because I am competitive.

Then, I joined the table tennis club by invitation from a teacher who was the coach when I was a freshman in junior high school. I started it lightly but it was more difficult than I thought and I actually had a difficult time getting used to playing table tennis. However, little by little I got better from practicing and finally when I won against my senior who I had never been able to beat and hadn’t won anything at a competition of table tennis, I realized that I want to learn this sport seriously. Now I think the reason why I came to like table tennis is that it is the happiness of finding a sport which I can have confidence “I can win with this”. It might sound too simple but my confidence was so important at the time and it has never changed for five years now.

This was something that I realized from playing table tennis. Before I started playing it, sometimes I was depressed by living differently from others and not being able to play other sports as well as I wanted to. I wrote the reasons for this down as excuses, because I have a disability with my eyes.

“I can’t help being different from others because I have a disability with my eyes. Also it can’t help if I can’t enjoy any sports even though I want to”. I had been escaping from myself with these ideas.

But it was wrong. I realized that it shouldn’t matter being a disabled or ordinary person, we can equally find happiness and religion, and the power each of us have for making our own dreams or hopes can come true just the same. I was almost even throwing away possibilities of mine due to the reason of my disabilities, but I could get it back through table tennis. Now I am thinking about going to college and being a teacher for a school for the blind after graduation, with my experience of being disabled and spending 12 years at the Okayama School for the Blind. Because I could find my new possibility which is, that I can understand the situation for people who have the same disability as mine and be on their side instead of throwing away my potential because of the disability. The most important thing is that I never give up for any reason. I realized that I shouldn’t give up for such a small thing when I won the bronze medal at the competition of table tennis after I kept losing and had been in a corner with the risk of not being able to earn a medal. There is no barrier between disabled or ordinary people if we don’t give up and are strong even if it is difficult or takes us a long time to get done. I appreciate table tennis which has made me realize this through various experiences and communication with a lot of people.

There is a great serve which is filled up with many gifts and is shot by the sport named table tennis into me. From now on, I want to answer it with the greatest service return “I will make my dream come true and never give up with the experiences from table tennis”.